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Pregnancy and Signs of Labor

What Do Braxton Hicks Contractions Feel Like?

Braxton Hicks contractions can be described as a tightening in the abdomen that comes and goes. These contractions do not get closer together, do not increase with walking, do not increase in duration, and do not feel stronger over time as they do when you are in true labor.

How Do I Know When I Am in True Labor?

To figure out if the contractions you are feeling are the real thing, ask yourself the following questions.

Contraction Characteristics False Labor True Labor
How often do the contractions occur? Contractions are often irregular and do not get closer together. Contractions come at regular intervals and last about 30-70 seconds. As time progresses, they get closer together.
Do they change with movement? Contractions may stop when you walk or rest, or may even stop if you change positions. Contractions continue despite movement or changing positions.
How strong are they? Contractions are usually weak and do not get much stronger. Or they may be strong at first and then get weaker. Contractions steadily increase in strength.
Where do you feel the pain? Contractions are usually only felt in the front of the abdomen or pelvic region. Contractions usually start in the lower back and move to the front of the abdomen.

How Do I Know When to Go to the Hospital?

When you think you are in true labor, start timing your contractions. To do this, write down the time each contraction starts and stops or have someone do it for you. The time between contractions includes the length or duration of the contraction and the minutes in between the contractions (called the interval).

Mild contractions generally begin 15 to 20 minutes apart and last 60 to 90 seconds. The contractions become more regular until they are less than 5 minutes apart. Active labor (the time you should come into the hospital) is usually characterized by strong contractions that last 45 to 60 seconds and occur three to four minutes apart.

What Can I Do to Relieve Labor Pain?

The first stage of labor (called the Latent Phase) is best experienced in the comfort of your home. Here are some tips to help you cope:

  • Try to distract yourself -- take a walk, watch a movie.
  • Soak in a warm tub or take a warm shower. But, ask your health care provider if you can take a tub bath if your water has broken.
  • Try to sleep or take a nap if it is in the evening. You need to store up your energy for active labor.

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